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Inherent Contradictions of Party Development

The Communist (New York). August, 1937, pp. 773-76. 

First, the question of the struggle inside our Party. The struggle did not commence yesterday, nor has it ended yet. If we take the history of our Party from the time it came into being as a group of Bolsheviks in the year 1903, and if we examine its latest stages right up to the present time, then it can be stated without any exaggeration that the history of our Party is the history of the struggle of contradictions within this Party, a history of the overcoming of these contradictions and of the gradual consolidation of our Party on the basis of overcoming these contradictions. It may be said that the Russians are too quarrelsome, that they love polemics, that they create differences and for that reason the development of the Russian Party is a process of overcoming internal Party antagonisms. This would not be true, comrades. This is not a matter of being quarrelsome; it is a matter of differences over principles, arising in the process of the development of the Party and the process of the struggle of the proletariat. 

It means that antagonisms can only be overcome by the struggle for this or that principle, for this or that fighting aim, for this or that method of struggle which leads to the goal. One can and must enter into every kind of compromise with those of a like mind within the Party on questions of current politics, on questions of a purely practical nature. But when these questions are bound up with differences of opinion involving principles, then no compromise, no "middle" line can save matters. There is not and cannot be a "middle" line in questions involving principles. Either the one or the other principle must be made the basis of the work of the Party. A "middle" line on questions involving principles is a "line" which leads to confusion of mind, a line which glosses over differences, a line of ideological degeneration of the Party, a line of ideological death of the Party.

How do the Social-Democratic parties in the West live and develop? Are there any internal contradictions and differences over principles in those parties? Of course there are. Do they expose these contradictions and try to overcome them honestly and frankly before the eyes of the masses of the party? No, of course they do not. It is the practice of the Social-Democrats to conceal these antagonisms, it is the practice of the Social-Democrats to convert their conferences and congresses into masquerades, into official parades intended to show that all is well within the party; every effort is made to conceal and gloss over the differences within the party. But nothing but confusion and the intellectual impoverishment of the party can result from such practices. This is one of the causes of the decline of Western European social-Democracy, which at one time was revolutionary, but is now reformist. 

We, however, cannot live and develop in this way. The policy of finding a "middle course" on questions of principle is not our policy. The policy of finding a "middle course" on questions of principle is the policy of declining and degenerating parties. 

Such a policy cannot but result in the Party becoming a mere bureaucratic apparatus beating the air, and detached from the masses. This path is not our path. 

The whole history of our Party confirms the postulate that the history of our Party is the history of overcoming internal Party differences and the steady consolidation of the ranks of our Party on the basis of overcoming these contradictions. . . . 

It follows that the fight to overcome internal Party differences is the law of development of our Party. 

It may be said that this is the law for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and not for other proletarian parties. This would not be true. This law is the law of development of all parties of any considerable size, irrespective of whether they are the proletarian party of the USSR or the parties of the West. While in small parties in small countries it may be possible to gloss over difference , to cover them up by the authority of one or several person , it is impossible to do so in a large party with diversified districts. In such parties development by overcoming contradictions is an inevitable element of growth and consolidation of the party. This is how development proceeded in the past, this is how it proceeds at the present day. 

I would like here to call in the authority of Engels who, in conjunction with Marx, guided the proletarian parties in the West through several decades. I refer to the eighties of the last century, when the anti-socialist laws were in operation in Germany, when Marx and Engels were in exile in London, and when the Social-Democratic organ, The Social-Democrat, was published illegally abroad, and really guided the work of German Social-Democracy. Bernstein at that time was still a revolutionary Marxist (he had not yet gone over to reformism). Engels kept up a lively correspondence with Bernstein on current questions of social-Democratic policy. This is what he wrote to Bernstein in 1882: 
Apparently, all labor parties in big countries can develop only in the process of internal struggle, in complete accordance with the laws of dialectical development. The German Party became what it is in the struggle between the Eisenach­ers and the Lassalleans, in which the very friction played the principal role. Unity became possible only when the riffraff, deliberately fostered by Lassalle as instruments in the struggle, became worn out, and here too it was brought about with too great haste on our part.

In France, those who, while having sacrificed their Baku­ninist theories, continue co employ Bakuninist methods of fighting, and at the same time desire to sacrifice the class character of the movement to their social aims must also become worn out before unity will again become possible. To advocate unity under such conditions would be sheer stupidity. Moralising sermons will not prevent infantile sicknesses which under modern conditions must be experienced. (Marx-Engels, Selected Correspondence, p. 382-Ed.J
For, says Engels in another passage:
Contradictions cannot be concealed for long. They are settled only by fighting them out. (Ibid.)
This is how the existence of contradictions within our Party and the development of our Party through overcoming these contradictions by fighting them out are to be explained. 

Where do these contradictions originate from, what are their sources? 

I think that the contradictions within proletarian parties originate from two circumstances. What are these? 

These are, first, the pressure of the bourgeoisie and of bourgeois ideology upon the proletariat and its party in the course of the class struggle, the pressure to which the more irresolute sections of the proletariat, and that means the wavering sections in the Party, not infrequently succumb. We must not think that the proletariat is completely isolated from society, or that it stands apart from society. The proletariat is part of society and connected with it through its diversified strata by numerous threads. The Party is part of the proletariat, and for that reason the Party cannot escape the contacts and influence of the diver­sifed strata of bourgeois society. The pressure of the bourgeoisie and its ideology upon the proletariat and upon its Party result in bourgeois ideas, morals, habits and moods not infrequently penetrating into the proletariat and its Party through the medium of certain strata of the proletariat connected in one way or another with bourgeois society. 

Second, it is the diversified character of the working class, the fact that it is made up of various strata. I think that the proletariat as a class may be divided up into three strata: 

The first stratum-the principal mass of the proletariat, its main core, its constant part; this is the mass of the "thoroughbred" proletarians, who have long ago cut off all contacts with the capitalist class. This stratum of the proletariat is the most reliable support of Marxism. 

The second stratum is composed of those proletarians who have recently emerged from non-proletarian classes; from the peasantry, petty bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. This stratum, having just emerged from non-proletarian classes, has brought into the proletarian class its old habits and customs, its wavering and vacillation. This stratum represents the most favorable soil for all sorts of anarchist, semi-anarchist and "ultra-Left" groupings. 

Finally there is a third stratum. This is the aristocracy of labor, the upper stratum of the working class, the most secure in its conditions compared with the other sections of the proletariat; it strives to compromise with the bourgeoisie; its predominating mood is to adapt itself to the mighty of the earth and to be "respectable." This stratum represents the most favorable soil for avowed reformists and opportunists.

In spite of their apparent difference on the surface, the last two strata of the working class 'represent a more or less common milieu which fosters opportunism: frank and avowed opportunism when the mood of the aristocracy of labor prevails, and the concealed opportunism of "Left" phrases when the mood of that stratum of the working class prevails which has not completely cut itself off from petty-bourgeois contacts. There is nothing surprising in the fact that avowed opportunism very frequently coincides with "ultra-Left" moods. Lenin has said more than once that the "ultra-Left" opposition is the reverse side of the Right wing, Menshevik, avowedly opportunist opposition, and this is absolutely correct. If the "ultra-Left" stands for revolution because it expects the immediate victory of the revolution, then naturally it must fall into despair, it must become disappointed in revolution if a hitch takes place and the revolution is not immediately victorious. 

Naturally, at every turn in the development of the class struggle, on every occasion that the struggle becomes more acute and difficult, the difference of views, the difference in the habits and moods of the various strata of the proletariat must tell in the form of differences in the Party, and the pressure of the bourgeoisie and its ideology upon the Party must inevitably cause these differences to become more acute and to find an outlet in the form of a struggle within the proletarian party. 

These are the sources of the inherent contradictions and difference within the Party. 

Is it possible to avoid these contradictions and disagreements? No, it is not. To imagine that it is possible to avoid these contradictions means to deceive oneself. Engels was right when he said that it is impossible to gloss over the contradictions within the Party for any length of time, that these contradictions are solved by struggle. 

This does not mean that the Party should be converted into a debating society. On the contrary, I.he Party of the proletariat is, and must remain, a fighting organisation of the proletariat. I merely wish to say that we must not shut our eyes to differences within the Party if these differences are over questions of principle.I want to say that only by fighting for principle can the proletarian Party withstand the pressure and influence of the bourgeoisie. Only by overcoming internal Party contradictions can we guarantee the soundness and strength of the Party.

The Communist (New York). August, 1937, pp. 773-76.

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